“A child in his earliest years, when he is approaching two or a little more, is capable of tremendous achievements” – Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child
I love being able to travel and experience other places of the world. I also love being able to experience new Montessori environments, although often times I find them missing something. I suppose it comes from seeing so many over the years and being so passionate about the pedagogy. I just have a very high bar.
However when a new Montessori Nido (Infant/Toddler Environment) is in your hometown, you simply can’t pass up the opportunity to go view it.
It didn’t disappoint.
The Nest which opened in January is absolutely stunning. It’s well lit with natural light, thoughtfully laid out and full of gorgeous custom made infant/toddler furniture.
Sometimes in Nido’s, that prepared, clean aesthetic that is found in the older classrooms is missed. It’s not intentional. It’s simply that it’s extremely difficult to take the miniature of the 3-6 classroom and shrink it again for the 0-3. This wasn’t the case here. It’s as if the staples of the 3-6 classroom were perfectly shrunk to scale.
Everything from the tiny cubbies to the Care of Environment area was well thought out, carefully prepared and beautifully executed.
Even the micro sized hand washing station made me smile as it is the exact shelf I use in my 3-6 classroom for my calendar work.
Of course when the custom shelves look this inviting, a Montessori child can’t help themselves. They simply have to roll out a micro sized work mat and set to work.
Quentin gravitated toward the things he himself enjoyed not all that long ago, such as the coin sorting box (shown on our home shelves here). He moved around the classroom with the excitement he shows in his own 3-6 class. He asked why the fish tank had a bridge, a reasonable question from a boy who has spent his entire life in the literal, logical world of Montessori.
He was met with a kind, and logical answer from the Directress and owner Alison:
There used to be a snail.
Alison is a Mom of 3 Montessori kids aged 7, 4 and 2.5. She trained in Toronto and saw a need in this rural/urban community for a Nido. She currently guides six children that range in age from 14 months to 3 years. She welcomed us in with little notice and graciously let us explore her environment. She chose to have everything from the shelves to the tiny chairs custom made to ensure they were at the correct height and the attention to detail does not go unnoticed.
Did you notice the culturally diverse books in the reading corner and the bird viewing area prepared in the middle window above? I did.
It’s these kind of details that set this space apart in my mind. That meet and surpass that high bar. And it’s these kinds of intangible details families ought to be looking for when they are touring Montessori classrooms.
- Is the space filled with natural light?
- Is there thought and design aesthetic in the furniture, the seating areas?
- Are the large materials truly the right size for the children that are using them or are they just cut down versions?
Most importantly, does the environment call to the child. If it does, a child regardless of age should run to the shelves and become sucked in by the beauty of the Prepared Environment.
It was an absolute pleasure observing this space. If you want to know more about Alison’s work you can find it here on her website or follow along with her Instagram account here.